August 28, 2018
Some years ago, our leadership team was preparing for our annual retreat. Part of our meeting together was a comprehensive assessment of our current situation and the challenges we were presently facing. As I was preparing my report I began listing the problems we were experiencing in each of our ministry areas.
The exercise helped clarify a number of things, especially the realization that not every problem we were facing could be treated the same. A leader's major responsibility is to define reality, and the more specific the better.
I soon recognized that I was dealing with two wholly different categories, and because of their different characteristics, they each demanded different strategies for resolving.
The first category I simply listed as problems, but the second I named predicaments.
Dealing with Problems This category is the easier of the two. With clear thinking we can see our way though most of the problems because problems are solvable. With a little forward thinking and conscious awareness solutions will be found and maybe even solved before most people realize a problem existed in the first place.
Problems are often fertile soil for creativity and expansive thinking. It can be a catalyst for team building, dynamic change, and even an initiator of momentum. They are fodder for fostering a sense of satisfaction for a job well done. Its what keeps leaders primed and motivated, because it is often the reason they find themselves in their role, because most great leaders are essentially great problem-solvers.
Dealing with Predicaments A predicament on the other hand, is an entirely different beast to deal with. It is the result of behaviour patterns that keeps causing difficulty. Predicaments have symptoms that mask the core issues.
A predicament is the result of habitual behaviour that has evolved into unconscious behaviour. These behavioural patterns become the unstated foundations of your organization's culture. They can undermine a leaders good intent and desire to bring lasting change.
Because a predicament is more of a people issue the path to resolution is far trickier and complex than simple problems. Here are 6 ways to help you navigate a predicament. In my experience it was a combination of these six together that helped us navigate through the predicaments we had identified.
1. Introduce Change Gradually People generally hate change, especially when its behavioural change. Its one thing to change organizational structures and systems, but to change the habits of people is another matter altogether. When change is introduced slowly you can model and told cultural expectations as part of the transition.
2. Build Systems that Redefine Expectations The systems you create introduce a set of expectations. These can have a way of helping to redefine culture and raise the level of behavioural expectations as well. A system goes beyond individuals and allows a new set of priorities to be introduced.
3. Guard the Gate I had a professor who drilled this into my head. If the leadership team is unhealthy, the rest of the organization will be unhealthy. Nothing defines a culture like a leader or their team. So why would we be cavalier in who we allow into leadership?
I often joke that I do want 'yes' people on leadership. Not 'yes' to me, but 'yes' to the vision and mission of the organization. If there is no alignment there, it becomes a recipe for 'spinning your wheels.' So guard the gate of leadership.
4. Hire from Outside This absolutely goes against the normal wisdom of the times. But when your culture is so broken, fresh outside talent is one way to re-envigorate a new mindset. When people are comfortable with the status-quo it can be very hard to break through the years of hardened cement. Often, a new person, especially someone who is dynamic and inspiring, can redefine culture in a way that would have taken years otherwise.
5. Celebrate the Wins For every positive move forward, celebrate, celebrate and then again celebrate. What you reward gets repeated. The promotion and celebration of wins, even small ones, has a way of promting momentum in the right direction.
6. Be Patient I personally am not a patient person, especially when it comes to changes that need to happen for the improvement of an organization. To change behaviour, though, takes time, and unfortunately lots of it.
What is rewarding is that over time, predicaments evaporate and lasting change for the better becomes the norm. Predicaments can undermine and discourage most well-intentioned leaders, but with the right combination of strategies and tools, behavioural changes can happen.
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